Dominating the skyline on the southeastern side of the island of Gozo is the unmistakable Xewkija Rotunda church. But beyond the dome, for which the village is widely known, there is so much to explore. Here's a list of things to see and places to go in Xewkija - one of the oldest villages on Gozo.
Words by VisitGozo / Ministry for Gozo | Extract taken from October 2023 Il-Bizzilla Magazine
The Village Square and the Rotunda
Undoubtedly, the top place to visit in Xewkija is the main square. Upon arriving there, you will experience the feel of the typical Gozitan village square, complete with community village clubs, smaller stores, restaurants and cafés. Step inside the massively grandiose rotunda and admire the sheer space of the temple dedicated to St John the Baptist. Initiated in 1951, the church, built in local honey-coloured globigerina limestone, is an architectural masterpiece, with beautiful sculptures and a Carrara marble floor.
The more recent scenic paintings from the life of St John are by the Gozitan artist Paul Camilleri Cauchi. The church is adorned with stained glass windows that burst with amazingly bright and diaphanous colours as the sun’s rays pour through them. Arch your neck upwards to follow the highest tip of the dome, considered the third largest freestanding one in the world.
On one side of the church, in the sacristy, is the older church, which was dismantled stone by stone when the newer one was built around it. The older church, which had served the parish since 1665, has been rebuilt as a museum to preserve the rich sculpture. If you’re visiting the village in June, it is worth noting that the people of Xewkija go to great lengths to celebrate their patron saint, and their village feast is associated with joyful revelry and street décor, including a gigantic street umbrella under which the youngsters dance to the band marches to avoid getting scorched in the sun
The Xewkija Windmill
Heralding all visitors at the crossroads, the Xewkija windmill is a landmark to all who visit the island of Gozo and not just Xewkija. The recently restored Xewkija windmill is open to visitors and is one of the landmarks, topping the list of what to see in Xewkija. Uniquely shaped as an octagonal structure, the windmill also features an oven that served for baking bread in times gone by.
Bakeries and Vintage Grocery Store
Being one of the older villages on the island, Xewkija still preserves some older bakeries. While some are more popular than others and are sought by visitors who tour the village, others are still tucked away in its backstreets. One particular old-style grocery store, still sporting its well-preserved vintage sign, continues to serve the community’s needs in one of the older streets. Xewkija is also known for the stone décor visible in the houses. The stone sculptures adorning the rotunda are the work of one of the local families. You may be lucky enough to stumble upon one of the sculpture masters at work in a workshop a stone’s throw away from the windmill.
Away from the village core, Xewkija is a village that knows its roots in country life. Typical farmhouses and horse stables are scattered in the village’s periphery. From here, it is easy to follow paths that lead to rural scenes and coastal views. On the edge of the village of Xewkija, you will also find the medieval Chapel of Santa Cecilia, considered to be the oldest chapel in Gozo. Don’t miss out on this as it is yet another landmark in Xewkija.
Mġarr ix-Xini Bay and Tower
One particular road leads to the valley and the quaint bay of Mġarr ix-Xini, guarded by a coastal tower. You can hike down or be prepared to drive along a narrow and steep country road to reach it. The bay and the surrounding waters are also a favourite diving spot. Mġarr ix-Xini Bay became famous when Angelina Jolie filmed the movie By the Sea at this inlet.